Courageous HR people step into the board rooms, please.
But can we please avoid the "seat at the table" discussion again?
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Happy Thursday, folks 🥳!
Today is a shorter one, but still an important one, and since it's a shorter one, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.
Drop me an email with your thoughts, or even better, share them here for everyone to see by leaving a comment!
Let’s get to it.
The other day I took a trip down memory lane. One of the dubious benefits of having been active on the internet for a long time is the possibility to travel back in time and read what I thought was important back then. In all honesty, most of it hasn't aged that well, and it's a lot of cringy stuff. (Make no mistake, I imagine that I will feel the same about this ten years from now about what is being put out there now.)
Although cringy, there's one thing that hasn't diminished over the years, and that's the passion for the profession. Even as a student, I held the HR flag high. It runs like a red thread across my posts back then, and I hope it still does today.
Ten years ago, a considerable debate was happening about getting a seat at the management table. If you weren't around for the discussions, they revolved around HR being important and thus needing to be included in the management team, which was not a given back then. Thankfully we have evolved since then, and in most companies, this is a non-issue. I think the conversation changed when we stopped discussing and instead started doing, and at the same time, new companies rose to prominence by centering around their people.
Netflix shared their famous culture deck in 2009, sparking further discussions around what people management would and should be. Google's then head of people operations, Lazlo Bock, spoke a lot about how they treated their googlers.
In short, our function stepped out from the shadows and into the limelight. We did so mainly by seizing the opportunities given to us, not by standing on the sidelines shouting, "You must include us!"
Perhaps it's time we put those skills to use again because there's a cry for a seat at the table, but this time it's the board table. And before I say anything else here, I'm a strong supporter of having more HR presence in the board room.
I fundamentally believe that to be successful in the future, companies need to be led by people who are either coming from HR or have strong people skills. I think that gone are the days when the CFOs automagically became CEOs - if you don't have a deep understanding of what drives, motivates, and retains people over the coming decade, you'll have a hard time developing your company in a suitable direction. So yes, HR knowledge at the board table is a great idea.
But all that said, I'm not really up for having endless discussions around whether we should be given a seat at that table. And in all honesty, I didn't really understand the debate last time either. Perhaps I was too fresh out of school, but we've always had a seat at the table in my view. Or if we, for some magic reason, didn't, then it was ours to take and ours to lose if we don’t add value.
The same goes for a seat at the board table. We should start doing.
Is that easier said than done? Perhaps. But when was the last time you reached out to a founder and offered support? Or sat down with investors discussing principles and what you believe in? There are ways to move the needle forward, but we better stop talking and start doing if we want to do that.
The world would be a better place with HR people in the board rooms; let's make our way in there.